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Water in Ancient 1Running head: WATER IN ANCIENT ROME Water in Ancient Rome Gina M. Martino John Cabot University
Water in Ancient 2 Water in Ancient Rome People coming to Rome from all over the world have certain monuments they are able torecognize almost instantaneously: the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Saint Peters, and among manyothers, the ancient Roman Aqueducts. Even in their ruined state, the aqueducts can be seenstretching far outside the city of Rome and one must wonder what they would have looked likein their completed form. Beyond simply appearance however, the aqueducts played a crucialrole in the lives of ancient Romans, from allowing the individual citizens the freedom to live inplaces where water would not normally be available, to supplying the great public baths, in turnproviding a central gathering place. Ancient Romans had an understanding of water that was nothing short of spectacular intheir time. The Aqueducts carried water from distant springs and streams into the city of Rome.With a water source as large as the Tiber River running right through the middle of Romehowever, one wonders why the ancient Romans even developed a need to carry water from so faraway. While it is true that initially the Romans did rely on the Tiber River as well as from localwells and springs, eventually the poor sanitary conditions of the ancient city contributed topolluting the local waters, creating a need to import water from outside the main city. It is nowonder when considering their initial drainage system, the Cloaca Maxima, built by theEtruscans several centuries B. C. is an outstanding creation. Still in existence 28 centuries later,this 600 meter drain empties into the Tiber River and is so wide at some sections, that a wagoncould comfortably fit inside of it.1 Even were the waters not have become polluted however,the Romans probably would have invented the aqueducts as a way to allow the city of Rome toexpand further than the area immediately next to the Tiber.1 Water and wastewater systems in imperial Rome.
Water in Ancient 3 On average, each citizen of Rome received about 84 gallons per day from the aqueducts.1All together there were eleven major aqueducts in ancient Rome built between 312 B.C. and 226A.D and each one could hold up to three pipelines. The first aqueduct built was Aqua Appiawhich carried water from the Anio valley, as did five other aqueducts. This aqueduct alonesupplied Rome with 73,000 cubic meters per day.2 The last aqueduct built was the AquaAlexandrina, which delivered water from the Alban hills. Between these two where the AnioVetus (269 B.C.), Aqua Marcia (140 B.C.), Aqua Tepula (125 B.C.), Aqua Julia (33 B.C.), AquaVirgo (19 B.C.), Aqua Alsietina (2 B.C.), Aqua Claudia (52 A.D.), Anio Novus (52 B.C.), andthe Aqua Traiana (109 A.D.). Of all of the aqueducts, the longest one was Anio Novus, whichstretched a total of 59 miles.3 Aqueducts work by utilizing gravity flow and were only raised on arches just beforeentering the city to allow enough pressure for distribution.4 The water is carried to either itsterminus or a distribution chamber, generally underground through a conduit (specus). Ofcourse there was the problem of uneven terrain. Generally, construction lead the aqueductsaround extreme terrain, however, when it was necessary to carry the water through lowergrounds and valleys, either multi-tiered viaducts or occasionally the more costly inverted siphonscould be used. Conversely, when hills were the problem, tunnels were dug that even includedvertical shafts to fit individuals to allow for the occasional inspection.1 Along the way there may be several settling tanks (piscinae), as well as coveredcatch-basins, that would filter the water to remove any foreign matter or sediment. Eventuallythe water would reach a castellum where the water was distributed through terracotta or lead1 Morgan, 1902, p. 35.2 Claridge, 1998, p58.3 Roman aqueducts.4 Roman aqueducts.
Water in Ancient 4pipes (fistulae) that would carry the water below ground level to one of three places: basins andfountains, baths, or to private houses.2 Private connections were rare however, and likely ratherexpensive, so most citizens obtained their water from public fountains. Two aqueducts, the Julia and the Virgo, were constructed by Agrippa, a close friend ofAugustus, as was the reworking of the Aqua Tepula.3 The only ancient aqueduct still infunction today is the Aqua Virgo, built at Agrippa’s own expense as the last in a water supplypublic works to improve the quality of life in the city of Rome. When first built, the AquaVirgo both supplied water to an area of Rome that was thus far inadequately served as well as tocomplete Agrippa’s baths,4 the ruins of the Basilica of Neptune is all that remains of the greatstructure, which can be seen today in the back of the Pantheon. The structure as it stands todayactually dates back only as far as the Hadrian who rebuilt it in 125 A. D. The original complexwas destroyed by a fire in 80 A. D., however it is the 2.5 meter depth below the current streetlevel gives away the original age. The original Pantheon was built between 27-25 B. C. Itwas rebuilt by Domition, burned down again after being struck by lightning in 110 A. D., andthen was rebuilt once again by Hadrian, who, rather than claim recognition, dedicated thebuilding to Agrippa. Behind this, was the Basilica of Neptune, the remains of which can still beseen today.1 On the opposite side of the Pantheon to the Basilica would have been the large outsidebasin of the baths and on the other side of that was the main Laconicum, an early form of heatedbath that after the construction of the Aqua Virgo become a full thermae.2 Next to theLaconicum were the great gardens of Agrippa which featured in the center, the large artificial1 Water and wastewater systems in imperial Rome.2 Evans, 1982, p. 402.3 Evans, 1982, p. 401.4 Lloyd, 1979, p195.
Water in Ancient 5lake, known as the Sagnum. The Aqua Virgo served Agrippa’s Thermae and Sagnum, as wellas supplying the water the Euripus, a large artificial channel for swimming which ran from thebaths to the Tiber River3 where it emptied just north of the modern Victor Emanuel Bridge.4 The baths of Agrippa were actually built in 25 B.C., six years before the Aqua Virgo.These baths were the first great public bath complex and were probably very experimental. Asa consequence, the bath is missing anything serving as a swimming pool to have it be considereda full scale bath; however the Stagnum and the Euripus could be seen as replacements for thisfeature. Before the Aqua Virgo was built, the bath contained nothing but a sweat-bath(Laconicum), so it is clear that the aqueduct was a necessity to complete the complex. Obviously the baths of Agrippa, as well as the baths that followed, served the purpose ofpublic facilities that for cleaning oneself in an age in which bathrooms were not yet in existence.However, ancient Roman baths were more than simply bathing facilities; they were the center ofthe social world. Baths were places of gathering where one could play games, listen to lecturesand musical performances, gossip, and even patronize prostitution.1 As the Romans hadconquered a large portion of their known world, they left baths behind in locations outside ofRome. The Roman baths in the British city appropriately named Bath were still very popular in17th and 18th centuries as a place to go to “take the waters,” a prescription given by doctors foreverything from gout to an inability to produce a male heir. The popularity of the bathstranscended medical purposes however, and the town and facilities became one of the mostfashionable places to go to see and be seen. Even today, as there are no baths in Rome leftstanding as they were in ancient times, and even the Roman baths in Bath have been shut down,1 Claridge, 1998, p. 179.2 Claridge, 1998, p. 179.3 Evans, 1982, p. 408.4 Claridge, 1998, p. 179.
Water in Ancient 6people still flock to the town of Bath to see the remains of the ancient complex and even to visitthe new Thermae Spa where one can bathe in mineral waters, have a meal, a massage, or even sitin one of four scented saunas. The Thermae spa lends us a small glimpse into the past as itretains the social aspect of the original Roman baths as groups of anywhere from two to ten andmore gather to take the famous mineral waters together. In the 537 A.D, the Goths sacked Rome, and to paralyze the city, destroyed all of theaqueducts leading into the city but the Aqua Virgo which was saved by the fact that it ranentirely underground.2 For centuries after this the city of Rome was without their greataqueduct system. There was some restoration in the middle ages, but the population of the cityand dwindled severely and what remained had little resources or reason to restore them.3 Theremaining population relocated to the areas surrounding the bend of the Tiber River and relied onthat as their main water source. The Aqua Virgo was the only aqueduct until the renaissanceperiod that any major renewal of the system took place. Aqua Alexandrina was rebuilt bySixtus V in 1586 and renamed the Aqua Felice. A few decades later, in 1612, the Aqua Traianawas similarly rebuilt by Paul V and renamed the Aqua Paula.4 The most recent aqueduct to bereconstructed was just before the unification of Italy in 1970. The Aqua Marcia was rebuilt andwould have been renamed in the same style as its predecessors to the Aqua Pia were it not for thesecularization bill being applied to Rome in 1873. The great baths, as mentioned, did not survive time as well as the aqueducts did. Not asingle one of the ancient public baths still stands in its original form today. The great bathswere a luxury that required far too much water and maintenance. As they no longer had1 Nielsen, 1990, p. 144.2 Roman aqueducts.3 Matthews, 1947, p. 125.4 Aicher, 1993, p. 343
Water in Ancient 7practical functions, the structures were either used for their building materials, or like the Bathsof Diocletian and the Pantheon were turned into large churches or other buildings. Some of thegreatest structures of ancient Rome have faded back to become yet another of the many layerscoexisting in the eternal city.
Water in Ancient 8 ReferencesAicher, P. J. (1993). Terminal display fountains (“mostre”) and the aqueducts of ancient Rome. Phoenix 47(4), 339-352.Baths of Agrippa. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Maquettes de Rome Web site: http://www.maquettes-historiques.net/P23.html.Claridge, A. (1998). Rome: An Oxford archaeological guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Evans, H. B. (1982). Agrippa’s water plan. American Journal of Archaeology 86(3), 401-411.Lloyd, R. B. (1979). The Aqua Virgo, Eurippus and Pons Agrippae. American Journal of Aarchaeology 83(2), 193-204.Matthews Sanford, E. (1947). The destruction of ancient Rome. The Classical Weekly 40(16), 122-127.Morgan, M. H. (1902). Remarks on the water supply of ancient Rome. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 33, 30-37.Nielsen, I. (1990). Thermae et balnea. Denmark: Aarhus University Press.Rome: Baths of Agrippa. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Livius Web site: http://www.livius.org/ro-rz/rome/rome_baths_agrippa.htmlRoman aqueducts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Info Roma Web site: http://www.inforoma.it/feature.php?lookup=aqueduct.Thermae Agrippae. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Lacus Curtius Web site: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/ _Texts/PLATOP*/Thermae_Agrippae.html.
Water in Ancient 9Water and wastewater systems in imperial Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Waterhistory.org Web site: http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/rome/.
Water in Ancient 13 Figure CaptionsFigure 1. Ground level and remains of the original Basilica of NeptuneFigure 2. Ground level and remains of the original Basilica of NeptuneFigure 3. Remaining décor of the Basilica of Neptune